Cold and Flu Season
It’s that time of year again…
We spend more time indoors, and the kids go back to school where germs abound, and viral infections begin to circulate more intensely. Symptoms of a cold include fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, cough, congestion, and even fever. When these symptoms are combined with a higher fever, body aches and chills, it is more likely the flu.
- Viral infections differ from bacterial infections, and cannot be treated with antibiotics. The only real way to clear a viral infection is to let your immune system do its job.
- Bacterial infections will usually have gross and colourful discharges involved. (Eg. Strep throat is a bacterial infection where a white cheesecurd-like substance coats the sides of the back of the throat)
- Viral infections usually (not always) have more clear secretions, with maybe light tinges of yellow, cream, white, or green.
- The “stomach flu” (vomiting and diarrhea) is actually not a flu virus at all, but is more commonly caused by a rotovirus or food poisoning (bacterial).
Transmission and Prevention
The best way to avoid suffering from the symptoms of cold and flu is to prevent the infection in the first place. So how can you protect yourself? Since respiratory viruses are most commonly transmitted in small fluid droplets, it is important to keep them away from your mouth, nose and believe it or not, your eyes. The most common transmission of viral infections actually occurs from touching your eyes. Our eyes have the fewest anti-viral defenses present when compared with our noses and mouths. So avoid touching your eyes without a barrier like a tissue as much as possible. Most importantly, washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water is one of the most powerful things you can do to avoid getting sick.
Fun trick: Sing the ABC’s as you lather up to make sure you scrub for long enough.
Unless you have an important presentation or a life changing event, avoid suppressing your symptoms. Believe it or not, your runny nose, and sore throat are not signs of “being sick”, they are actually signs of your healthy immune response killing off the bad guys! Without a healthy immune response, our only sign of viral infection is fatigue, and body aches and pains. Medications that prevent your immune symptoms actually inhibit your body’s natural virus-killing defenses and can make it take even longer for you to clear the infection. Not to mention, you spread the infection to a wider group of unsuspecting “innocent bystanders”!
Taking care of yourself to speed healing
Stress and overwork severely inhibit your natural defenses and suppress your immune response. So take a little time to re-evaluate your priorities this cold-and-flu season to see if you can cut back a bit and rest more.
If you’ve already gotten sick, the most important thing that you can do to promote your healing is to take the time to rest. Your body has the natural ability to kill off viral infections. The idea is simply to give it the healing nutrition, hydration, and time it needs to clear the infection on its own. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to help the body flush out the virus, and any toxins that may be released. Eat simple meals that are low in refined sugar. High sugar foods can suppress immune function for several hours after eating. Eating nutrient rich fruits and vegetables can help to give your body the natural nutrition that it needs to fight off the infection. Garlic and onion are naturally antiviral and immune boosting, so adding more to your diet can help as well. Getting plenty of sleep is also essential. If you are having difficulty sleeping, consider valerian, chamomile, or passion flower teas to help your body gear down. Even just resting while lying down can help your body reserve energy for the immune response. Whatever you do, don’t go about your daily living! If everyone who got sick stayed home instead of “fighting through it”, we would not have this cold-and-flu season problem!
Easy Home Remedies
- There are a number of herbs that can help boost your immunity, like Echinacea, Astragalus, and mushroom extracts. Antiviral herbs like elderberry, garlic and onion can directly kill off viruses as well.
- Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc are important nutrients for healthy immune function. Supplementing these during an illness can help your immune system have the tools it needs to fight back.
- Steam inhalations with thyme, sage and eucalyptus essential oils can help to break up phlegm and improve breathing difficulties. Sage tea can help you sweat out a fever.
- Phlegm and cough: avoid animal products (especially dairy) as they increase phlegm production. Lozenges are helpful for soothing throat irritation and reducing the urge to cough. Steam inhalations can also help.
- Sore throats can be helped by sucking on a teaspoon of honey, or by preparing hot water with a wedge of lemon and a teaspoon of honey.
- Rinsing nasal passages with a neti pot can help to clear out blocked nasal passages and improve breathing. This is especially useful at night when a stuffed nose is preventing sleep.
- Also at night, a great way to help boost your natural immunity is by doing cold wet socks treatment. For more information, please Contact the Clinic.